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Nature or Nurture?: Explanations for Observed Gender Differences and their Effect on Gender Ideology and Political Opinions


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Principal Investigator(s):

Catherine J. Taylor
Indiana University
Email: cattaylo@indiana.edu
Home page: http://www.indiana.edu/~gender/people/taylor.shtml

Sample size: 410
Field period: 12/28/2006 - 01/06/2007

 

Abstract:

I test if exposure to competing ideas about the reasons underlying observed gender differences will influence people’s degree of gender stereotyping and prejudice, as well as change opinions on political issues that are linked with gender attitudes and beliefs. Specifically I compare the beliefs that: 1) observed gender differences are due to characteristics that are fixed and innate (that is, an essentialist
explanation) or, 2) observed gender differences are at least partially due to socio-cultural influences, and thus malleable. I expect that participants who are primed with exposure to the idea that gender traits are fixed and innate will hold more stereotypical as well as more prejudiced gender beliefs than participants who are primed with the idea that gender traits are malleable. I also expect that participants who are primed with exposure to the idea that gender traits are fixed and innate will express more conservative views regarding on gender based social policies.

Hypotheses:

I predict that participants who are asked to evaluate essentialist explanations for observed differences between men and women (Condition 1) will 1) be more likely to endorse gender stereotypes as well as endorse explicitly sexist attitudes and 2) will display more conservative views on government policies about contraception, same-sex marriage, government support for traditional families, and welfare policy.

Experimental Manipulations:

Participants will answer four questions about how much they endorse one of two possible explanations for observed differences between men and women.
Participants will be randomly assigned to two conditions. In the first condition participants will be asked their opinion on statements that give essentialist explanations for differences between men and women (questions 1-4, adapted from Keller 2005). In the second condition participants will be asked their opinions on statements that give socio-cultural explanations for differences between men and women (questions 5-8).

Key Dependent Variables:

The dependent measure will comprise two series of questions: 1) a measurement of endorsement of both overtly sexist attitudes (questions 13-15, question 15 adapted from Keller 2005) as well as gender stereotypes (questions 9-12, adapted from Diekman and Eagly 2000) and 2) a measurement of opinions on political issues linked to gender attitudes and beliefs (questions 16-23, some questions adapted from Willer 2005).

Summary of Findings:

Hypotheses were not confirmed


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